Northeast no-show

October 1, 2002 By    

Don’t bother marking the Northeast Convention & Trade Show on your 2003 calendar. There won’t be one.

The National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) board of directors has voted to shelf the 14-year-old event for next year as it evaluates the show’s future.

Last month’s event in Baltimore had just 650 registrants, which includes the folks staffing the 75 exhibitor booths. That’s the lowest mark since the first Northeast Convention was held in 1988 as an outgrowth of the Tri-State (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) Convention. The Northeast typically pulls in about 1,000 propane marketers, suppliers and equipment vendors. That number has been in a nosedive the past seven years, however, leading to ongoing discussions about its termination.

NPGA’s Convention Committee has struggled to determine whether the show’s problems are fixable. In 1999 it convened a special planning session with show exhibitors. Its recommendation to kill the event was rejected by the NPGA’s Executive Committee because it was still making money.

This year, with only each other to talk to in the lonely aisles, those same exhibitors let out a chorus of cheers when it was announced over the public address system that the show would close a full 90 minutes earlier than scheduled.

Bad luck certainly hasn’t helped in recent years. The one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was bound to keep some travelers at home this year. Three years ago, Hurricane Floyd slammed airports all along the East Coast on the show’s opening day.

Some observers blame the tight cash flow in a troubled economy following so many recent warm winters.

Some say the event needs to pick a single site in order to give the show a permanent identity, as the Southeast Show has in Atlanta. Over the years, the Northeast has rotated between Baltimore, Providence, Boston, Hartford, Valley Forge and Hershey, Pa.

Others insist the issue is timing. Propane marketers already have made their purchases for the upcoming heating season by the time the Northeast Show rolls around, they reason. They suggest moving it to late April, May or early June, although that brings schedule conflicts with competing industry events.

Some think the industry just doesn’t need as many trade shows as it once did, especially with more business being done via computer and FAX.

I don’t know what will happen, but NPGA certainly can’t let this limp along to a slow, painful death. Angry, frustrated exhibitors won’t let that happen.

IT’S A BOY!  Among those absent from the show floor in Baltimore was our very own Brian Kanaba. He was tending to the arrival of a second son, Andrew Brian, on Sept. 13. Brian and wife, Jen, will call the new salesman-in-training Drew. Vital stats: 6 pounds, 15 ounces and 19.5 inches long.

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